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freelancing

So, it’s been a minute. (Approximately 28,800 of them, actually.) What have I been doing with myself during quarantine? Not what I would have expected, necessarily.

For example, unlike a great many people, I haven’t been watching a lot more movies or television, though, like, I gather, a great many other people, I also haven’t been reading any more books than I was before, maybe less.

Mostly, I’ve been working, and while that’s occasionally been on fiction, more often it’s been on, more or less, the same kind of freelance stuff that I was doing before the pandemic. I’ve also increased the frequency of my appearances on the Horror Pod Class, where we’ve been doing weekly episodes due to the lockdown.

Recent episodes have included talking with author Max Brooks about bigfoots and the reassuring quality of Peter Graves, chatting with Pitch editor and semi-professional podcast haver Brock Wilbur about how, where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see, and just our usual bullshit about cursed films.

None of that new fiction stuff is in any fit state for public consumption just yet, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some news on that front, too. My story “Screen Haunt” will be showing up in mailboxes and bookstores (if there are still such things) later this year in It Came from the Multiplex, a fun-looking antho from Hex Publishers themed around ’80s horror. My contributor’s copy came the other day, and the book looks fantastic, even if I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

Speaking of reading, I somehow managed to swallow down my anxiety enough to perform the narration of my story “Dream House” for Pseudopod recently. (Listen to the story and you’ll hear why.) You have my apologies for the narration, but the story has always been a favorite, and it brings back good memories.

The lockdown means that I haven’t been out to the theater in a while, and there’s been a commensurate slowdown in my reviews of other titles, as well. But I haven’t been idle! Earlier this month, I kicked off the first in a new recurring column that I’ll be writing at Unwinnable in which I talk about the eternal allure of board games … especially those that we pretty much never play.

The first installment talks about playing Horrified in the midst of a global pandemic, which has naturally limited my playing options. I have plans for future installments that will hopefully include, y’know, playing them with actual other people. We’ll see.

On a similar note, I’ve also been digging into 5e D&D for the first time in a while and … enjoying it a lot more than I would have expected. While the lockdown has put certain necessary constraints on my actual playing options, I’ve really been enjoying what we have done, and just paging through the books and acquainting myself with setting and rules. I’m surprised, but happy to be so.

Oh, and I did that Penguin Classics cover generator thing that was going around for a minute there with my books, too. So that’s fun.

February has been extremely busy for me so far, and I’m still behind on lots of things from the cough that has kept me a prisoner since the end of October (it’s still here, by the way, but it is gradually weakening). Which is why you haven’t heard from me much in the last couple of weeks.

But last Saturday I went thrifting with Eli (of Analog Sunday fame) for his birthday, then back to his place to watch some weird tapes, as we are wont to do. Thrifting was a huge success, and I’ve been posting some of my loot over on Instagram, if you wanna go be jealous.

I’ve made a few other stops various places while I was out running this or that errand lately, and had similarly great luck, as has Grace in her efforts to track down rare and unusual dice. So, while February has still been extremely busy, it has also been nice.

I’ll take busy and nice. And today, I got an email from a client telling me that I was getting an unasked-for raise on my regular freelance rates from them due to the “consistent positive feedback from our editors in regards to your work.” Which is always a nice thing to hear.

So, not every day is great, but today is pretty good. I’ll take it.

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Unknown SkeletonAt the start of this decade, I made my first-ever professionally-qualifying sale. (Pro rates were somehow even lower then than they are now.) I had been writing since I learned how, and seriously attempting to publish since I graduated college not quite a decade before that.

In 2012, the first edition of my first collection, Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, came out. In five years it would be out of print, then back in print, in a new, hardcover deluxe edition from Strix Publishing.

Looking back, it came out too soon. Not that I’m not proud of the collection – I am, completely, if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have allowed it to be reissued. I just wasn’t at the “first collection” stage in my career quite yet, but I didn’t know that then.

In the years since, I’ve published two more collections of stories, both with Ross Lockhart’s Word Horde press, not to mention two collections of essays on vintage horror films, both with Innsmouth Free Press. I’ve published more than fifty short stories, and been in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year three times.

I co-edited my first anthology with Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which got translated into Japanese.

I’ve done work for Privateer Press, writing short fiction and in-game content, adventures, and even a licensed novel that is technically my first published novel-length work. In the last year alone I’ve written nearly fifty movie reviews for Unwinnable and Signal Horizon, where I also now co-host a podcast.

I’ve written introductions for reissues of some of my favorite books, including Benighted and collections by Robert Westall, from Valancourt Books, and introductions to collections by some of my favorite contemporaries, including Nick Mamatas and Amanda Downum. I have nonfiction bylines in places like Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, and Nightmare Magazine.

I’ve been a guest at several wonderful conventions and festivals, gone on a great many podcasts, introduced movies at the local movie theatres, and much more. There are so many things on this list that, had you told me about them ten years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Of all the many surprising things that have happened to me over the course of the last decade, though, perhaps the most surprising is that I quit my day job to write full-time all the way back in 2013, and I haven’t had to give it up yet.

Fiction writing certainly doesn’t pay the bills, so most of my time is dedicated to freelancing, but, as they say in Major League 2, a day of playing baseball is better than whatever most people have to do for a living.

It wasn’t until Grace was asking me if I was planning to do some kind of decade-in-review that I realized how much my life has changed in these past ten years, so it seemed worth taking note. I went from being virtually unpublished (I had sold a few stories, but not many) to having six or more books (depending on how you count) with my name on the spine and writing for a living.

Not too shabby, all in all.

Lately, work has been a lot like slaying hydras. For every job that I finish, two more seem to take its place. This is what we in the business call “good problems.”

Hydra (1)

However, it has still been a lot, and there’s every chance that something has fallen through the cracks. If you’re waiting on me for something, thank you for your patience, and please feel free to nudge me. I will, at worst, tell you that you’ll have to wait a little longer.

When I originally posted this yesterday, I didn’t realize (see above re: being busy) that today was the birthday of the late, great Ray Harryhausen, one of the best monster guys of all time. So, in honor of the occasion, take a break for me and watch a Harryhausen flick. They’re all good.

While we’re on the subject, here’s a link to a couple of years ago when I got to visit the Ray Harryhausen exhibit, in spite of being laid up from surgery.

Through it all, I did make it out to a few movies, including Annabelle Comes Home, which was great, and The Dead Don’t Die, which… probably wasn’t great, but I had fun. I also reviewed the second volume of Arrow Video’s American Horror Project, which is its own whole weird thing, and the Unearthed Films release of The Dark Side of the Moon, which is Event Horizon before Event Horizon and/or a Dennis Wheatley novel in spaaaace.

More soon, once these hydra heads stop multiplying…

If anything defines semi-personal blogging in this, the far-flung future of 2019, it is opening every single post with an apology (even if veiled or joking) about how long it’s been since your last post. “Forgive me, Father,” and all that. But all joking and acquiescence to form aside, I have no idea what has happened to most of May.

If you’ve been following along on social media, where updates are somewhat less sporadic, you’ll probably have noticed that it’s mostly been nothing but pictures and links and the occasional notation of what I’ve been watching. I’d love to say that this was an explanation, but I don’t know that I have one.

I know that I’ve been busy with this and that bit of freelance work. I know that I’ve taken a couple of non-work-related out-of-town trips that haven’t required me to go very far but have sapped a fair amount of my energy. I know that my household suffered through about a week of feeling generally under-the-weather and that, in fact, 21 days is only three weeks all told, but still, it really seems like there must be something I’m leaving out.

If there is, though, I’m afraid that I am as in the dark about it as you are. Direct pre-orders closed on Revenge of Monsters from the Vault, and while we didn’t quite hit the goal we were aiming for, we got pretty close. Normal pre-orders will be up soon enough, and the book and myself will both be present at NecronomiCon Providence in a few months.

There are some story announcements in the pipeline, but nothing new to report just yet. Freelance work has been occupying most of my time, though I did recently get hired to do a bit of work that was more than usually in my wheelhouse. If you like my writing about old monster movies, a reminder that, while it is currently not available for pre-order, Revenge of Monsters from the Vault is going to be nothing but that for more than 200 pages, so keep an eye on this space!

So, of course, the big news is that my latest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales is less than a month away! It’s currently available for pre-order from Word Horde, not to mention on all your favorite electronic devices! I’ll be talking a lot more about it as we get closer to release, but in the mean time, other things continue to happen, too…

My story “No Exit” appeared in Lost Highways: Dark Fictions from the Road from Crystal Lake Publishing not too long ago. “No Exit” is another in my very loose story-cycle of tales that take place in the same world–or, perhaps more accurately, the same version of this world–along with “Hollow Earths” in Chthonic: Weird Tales of Inner Earth from Martian Migraine Press and a few others that haven’t actually seen print yet and some that have before I knew that I was writing a story cycle. More on that as it develops.

Speaking of stories, I have a very short one called “Masks” in the latest issue of Forbidden Futures, a magazine inspired by (and featuring) the art of Mike Dubisch. “Masks” tells the tale of what waits in the cluttered townhouse of an old makeup artist who has passed on, but left a few things behind.

Aside from writing stories, I spend most of my time on various freelance content jobs. Not too long ago, one of my freelance clients put me on retainer to write original mysteries for a sort of monthly murder mystery box called The Murder Chronicles. The contents will include “found documents” like newspaper articles, journal entries, notes, photographs, and more, all painting the story of a new mystery every month in the fictional Kansas town of Baker City. So far I’ve written a few months worth, and the first one should be shipping as I write this!

Murder Chronicles

Because they’re work-for-hire you won’t find my name on them anywhere, and because they’re written to order, the results are much more your typical “cozy mystery” than the weird horror stuff that you’re used to from me. But if a monthly murder mystery sounds like your cup of poison, it would probably help keep me gainfully employed if you were to subscribe and see how you like it.

A few months ago I was also a guest on the Lit KC podcast with my friend and former co-worker Jason Preu. The episode went live today as the show’s season finale, and in spite of the fact that I recorded it in the midst of the various stresses that have been my last year or so, I actually seem relatively coherent throughout, though my facts about Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales are necessarily somewhat dated. For one thing, it is actually going to have no less than four (4) original stories, though it’s still only 14 stories long. (Ah, the mysteries of publishing!)

That’s about it for now, but the Halloween season has officially begun, with stores starting to stock suitably spooky doodads, so there’ll be lots of seasonal content coming from me, not to mention lots more about Guignol in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned!

 

So, as astute readers may already be aware, I used to have a Patreon. For various reasons, I shut it down. Notably, I didn’t agree with some changes Patreon made to their funding model. They have since walked those changes back, but they weren’t the only reason I made the decision I did, and so that ship has sailed.

However, some people have expressed a desire to still be able to give me money, and far be it from me to argue. So I recently set up a Ko-fi account for just that purpose.  Now you can give me $3 anytime you feel so inclined.

And if you do happen to feel so inclined, now would honestly be a great time, because between medical bills from all of our recent health-related mishaps and the time Grace has had to spend off work due to same (I freelance, so I’m never off work, though I won’t lie and say that health stuff hasn’t impacted my productivity overall), our fiscal situation has certainly been better at other times than it is right this minute.

We’re not in bad shape, so if you can’t throw $3 into the digital hat, don’t worry about it. We’ll be fine for now, and once these particular health issues all pass, we’ll be back in the black in short enough order, I’m sure. But even then, if anyone ever feels like throwing some cash into the ring, it helps me to produce the kinds of projects that are a little more fun and a little less guaranteed a paying home. Stuff like writing about Toho’s “Bloodthirsty Trilogy” for Unwinnable, or a proposed essay about the Gothic elements of the 2005 version of House of Wax, for example.

(Speaking of that kind of writing, I recently learned that a very old essay of mine on Carpenter’s “Apocalypse Trilogy” was actually quoted in the book on In the Mouth of Madness by Michael Blythe from the Devil’s Advocates series!)

It also helps me to focus more on my fiction. Freelancing pays the bills faster and more reliably than any other writing, which means that Ko-fi money helps to give me breathing room to work on projects that don’t have as immediate a return.

I’ve dropped a Ko-fi button into the sidebar of my site here, and you can throw three dollars into the jar by clicking on that or on this link right here. If you ever feel like it, it’s much appreciated, and if you would rather support me in a way that gets you something more concrete in return, you can always do so by buying any of my books, which is even more appreciated!

On November 1, I more-or-less shuttered my online presence because I was diving into a work-for-hire project that I knew would dominate all of my free time. I was also under a non-disclosure agreement that prevented me from talking about said project in any but the most abstract terms. (Still am.)

Over the next 53 days, I wrote 87,000 words on it, making it the longest thing I have ever written by almost double its next-longest competitor, and almost three times longer than the longest thing I have ever published. During those same 53 days, I also wrote around 50,000 words of the various freelance work that I do most every month in varying quantities. So, suffice it to say, I haven’t been online much since the end of October, and I’ve been writing a lot. However, as of last Friday, I got to the end of the manuscript on that big, secret work-for-hire project.

Given that it was the day before Christmas Eve, and I hadn’t really had a day off in ages, I decided to take a couple off for the holiday. I didn’t really even get on my computer at all over the weekend, so today is pretty much my first time back, and even today I’m not doing a whole lot here. So if you’ve missed me around Facebook or Twitter or what-have-you, that’s why.

I’ve still got some freelance projects lined up to close out the month, and there’s still a lot more work to do to get even this really rough draft of the secret project manuscript ready to go out for the first round of revisions, but for now I’m just happy to have gotten through it at all, even if, as I predicted over on Facebook when I hit “then end,” all 87,000 words are terrible.

Regardless, it’ll be out of my hands again (for a little while) in about a week’s time, and then hopefully you’ll see me around a little more often. If nothing else, I’ll try to do at least a post or two recapping some high (and low) notes from this weird, surreal, often terrible but sometimes great year gone (mostly) by. Until then…

Come September, I will have been working full-time as a freelance writer and editor for two years. When I first started out, I had more work than I could really keep up with, but since then I’ve had a couple of my bigger clients reduce the amount of work they’ve been asking for, which means that I am currently actively seeking new clients for just about any kind of freelance writing, editing, critiquing, or content creation. I’ve done SEO work, blogging, written websites, done licensed fiction and RPG writing for Privateer Press, critiqued and proofread both fiction and nonfiction, as well as producing lots and lots of short stories. So if you or anyone you know is looking for fast, reliable, and high-quality freelance work in any of those areas, drop me a line at orringrey [at] gmail [dot] com for rates and specifics.